CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Northern Iowa was supposed to be in a rebuilding year.
An upset win over the nation's top-ranked team has certainly changed that narrative.
Wes Washpun scored 21 points and Northern Iowa stunned top-ranked North Carolina 71-67 on Saturday — just a week after losing to Colorado State at home.
The Panthers used a 29-8 stretch over 12 minutes of the second half to turn a 50-34 deficit into a 63-58 lead, and held on for the upset.
"They had to play their tails off in that second half. The game was just about over with 15 minutes left and our guys hung in there and made a couple shots," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said. "That last 10 minutes, I couldn't ask any more from our guys."
Northern Iowa (2-1) also got 19 points from Matt Bohannon — whose 3-pointer with 2:51 left gave Northern Iowa the lead for good — and 14 points from Paul Jesperson.
Justin Jackson had 25 points for the Tar Heels (3-1), who didn't force a single turnover in the second half.
North Carolina star Marcus Paige, who grew up in nearby Marion, Iowa, didn't play in what was supposed to be a homecoming game because of a broken bone in his right hand.
The Tar Heels missed him badly him, as Paige's replacement, Joel Berry, had just five points on 2-of-7 shooting.
"To have something like this happen this early in the season ... to have it happen for our guys is great. It's a great way for them to build a little momentum and build some confidence. We all know had Marcus played, the game could've been very different," Jacobson said.
North Carolina appeared to be in control in the first half. But Washpun made a half-court 3 at the buzzer to pull the Panthers within 41-32, and Jeremy Morgan's 3 cut it to 52-48.
Wyatt Lohaus gave Northern Iowa the lead with 9:21 left, and the Panthers were able to finish off one of the biggest upsets of the young season.
It was the biggest win for Northern Iowa since 2010, when it stunned top-seeded Kansas to reach the Sweet Sixteen. It also sent a message to Wichita State and the rest of the Missouri Valley that the Panthers are ready to contend for another league title.
"I told (Jacobson) I felt great for him and his squad. Very disappointed in me, more so than my team," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "We acted like a team that had not been coached very well."
North Carolina: The Tar Heels committed 12 turnovers ... Nate Britt was just 1-of-6 shooting and finished with only four points ... It was the first meeting between the schools and the first for North Carolina in Iowa since losing to the Hawkeyes in 1989.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers were hosting a top-10 opponent for just the third time. Northern Iowa beat No. 10 Iowa 84-78 in 1997 and lost to fourth-ranked Wichita State 82-73 two years ago ... The Panthers made a 3 for the 498th straight game, the longest current streak among Missouri Valley schools.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"How about waiting just a second?" Williams said as a reporter interjected with a question before he had finished his opening remarks at the postgame news conference. "Shouldn't snap at you. I should go in there and let the kids snap at me."
ON THE RISE
Despite the loss, North Carolina has to feel good about what Jackson, a sophomore, did Saturday. He had only scored 20 points in three games before his outburst in Cedar Falls.
Northern Iowa plays at North Dakota on Nov. 28.
North Carolina faces Northwestern on Monday.